It was the early 2000s and the feeling, service and eye-popping stores that made brands like Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Chanel extraordinary had yet to arrive online. A couple of years earlier, a young Brit named Anthony King had convinced the London-based agency Online Magic to move him to New York. While he spent his days working on websites for companies like British Airways and Compaq Computers, his nights and weekends were spent at clubs and restaurants downtown. Many of the friends he made were in the fashion industry.
Eventually, King started helping out his friends on the side. He’d translate their fashion businesses and portfolios into websites, explaining to them the ins and outs of the digital world. One day his side projects would find their way onto the screen of one of the higher-ups at Gucci Group and he was asked to come in for a meeting. After a few discussions, King was offered to come on board full-time to develop Gucci’s first foray into e-commerce. King jumped at the opportunity.
King’s boss, Rick Swanson, had gone to Tom Ford and Domenico De Sole to convince them to begin testing e-commerce. They obliged by allocating a minuscule budget, just enough to build a simple website with no automation. There was no live inventory, no live payment system, no shipping updates. King and a few young employees were the only glue holding it all together. Beyond making sure it worked, the real question was, with so few resources, how could they make the experience luxurious? How would it live up to the Gucci brand promise? As King explained, many at Gucci Group thought the internet was “below brand.” The answer was a brilliant insight born out of necessity, “online personal shopping.” King came up with a way of taking the negative—no budget and no real tech—and turning it into a positive, high-touch personal service through a digital platform.